It’s hard to move on sometimes.
Leaving behind yesterday in order to be present today and embrace tomorrow is hard work. Focused work. Diligent work. It requires great risk to let go of what is good in order to leave room for what is great.
It’s risky, because what if there’s no there there? What if what is there isn’t all that great after all? What if I really miss what was good?
And there can be pain involved — sometimes heartache, oftentimes fleshache and fear. Always fear.
And there’s a fine line, is there not, between remembering the past and moving on? Like, Abraham and Moses built altars of remembrance to acknowledge God’s handiwork — and to remember and honor that is good.
But where is the distinction between looking back and building an altar, and looking back and turning into a pillar of salt?
I struggle knowing the difference sometimes. Knowing when I’m supposed to not look back and when I’m supposed to remember. There seems to be a blurry line that differentiates the two chasms.
And I think the blurry line is called yearning.
When I look at Abraham and Jacob and Moses, and all the others in the Bible who built altars, they did so out of a desire to remember what God did in the midst of their crawling season. To acknowledge His divine handiwork and protection. To remember they couldn’t do it without Him.
And then when I look at Lot’s wife and how she turned into a pillar of salt because she had a desire to hold onto what she had instead of embracing what was to come.
She yearned for yesterday. Longed for it. Wasn’t ready to embrace change.
And it killed her.
Oh how I don’t want to be her.
There’s this little gem of a story in the Bible, hidden near the end of 1 Kings in chapter 19. This story is only three verses long, but those verses have preached thousands and thousands of words to me.
It’s the story of when Elijah finds Elisha, and anoints him as a prophet and his eventual replacement.
Elijah finds Elisha in the field, working diligently. There’s nothing to suggest that Elijah is unhappy or frustrated — it simply says he’s working 12 pairs of oxen and was with the last pair.
When Elijah wraps his cloak around Elisha, he knew instantly what it meant. He was chosen and anointed to take the mantle of prophet from Elijah, and to follow him.
Elisha’s response is phenomenal to me — he kills the oxen and then takes all the equipment and uses it to make a fire. And he cooks all the oxen — all 24 of them — and celebrates with a feast of the meat.
And then Elisha says goodbye to his family and follows Elijah.
Walks away completely.
Here’s what is so fascinating about Elisha’s story: working in the field was good. Working for his family was good. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing, and working hard at it. He was probably even really happy doing it. He probably had no complaints.
But when the time came for God to call Elisha into something new, he destroyed everything about his old life. He gave himself nothing to come back to, nothing to fall back on. He wanted to be 100%, all in on what God had called him to.
My husband always says that God doesn’t just call us out of anything without calling us in to something.
And that’s what happened to Elisha — God called him out of his field work into his new anointing.
And Elisha was willing to follow God’s leading 100%. By killing everything that represented the old, it gave him the freedom to fully embrace the new. By giving himself nothing to come back to, he had no choice but to give everything he had to his new calling.
There have been times in my life when I’ve killed the oxen and burned the plows — completely let go of what I was doing before God moved me and never looked back.
There have also been times when I’ve built altars to remember God and Who He Is and What He’s Done to honor His work in my life.
But there have also been times when I’ve looked back. When I’ve yearned and wished and dreamed it could be the way it used to be. Times when I’ve resisted the necessary work of transforming and changing — and those are the times I’ve turned myself into murky and confusing pillar of salt, frozen in fear of tomorrow and unable to move forward toward my promised land.
Oh how I don’t want to be her.
When Abraham and Jacob and Moses were done building their altars and remembering, they got up, got going and moved on (Deut 2:24, The Voice). There were places they had to set their feet on and take and claim.
And after Elisha feasted and said his goodbyes to his family, he left and joined Elijah and became his right-hand man, eventually gaining a double-portion of Elijah’s anointing.
Building altars and killing oxen and burning plows frees me up to the transformation God is doing in me. It shows God I’m saying yes to letting the old die so the new can live. It shows Him I’m no longer yearning for what was — when it really wasn’t that great anyway — and am instead yearning for What Can Be.
And even though there might be heartache and fear involved — I’ll be more heartbroken to miss what God might have in store. I’m more fearful of not being obedient than I am of change.
I want nothing to come back to, so that I can give everything I have to God’s next thing. (tweet that)
Oh how I want to be her.
What do you need to build and kill and burn in your life today? Are you ready to get up, get going and move on so you can take claim to your promised land?